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Orioles: Markakis knocks winning hit

BALTIMORE - During a pitching change in the top of the 10th inning of a tied game, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter asked Nick Markakis if he was having fun playing first base, as he was filling in for injured slugger Chris Davis on Saturday night.

"I said, 'Are you having fun over there?'" Showalter said. "He said, 'It'd be a lot more fun if we were up by five runs.'"

With no Davis in the lineup, the Orioles may need to piece runs together rather than rely on home runs, which they did often last season thanks to Davis' 53. And after scoring two in the first, they were held scoreless for eight innings, struggling to do that.

But in the bottom of the 10th, Markakis started to have more fun, because he helped the team finally cap off a rally with a run.

Markakis lined a single down the left-field line with the bases loaded and one out, lifting Baltimore to a 3-2 extra-innings win over the Kansas City Royals before 34,941 at Camden Yards.

"I was just looking for a ball over the plate and to hit it hard somewhere," Markakis said.

Leading off the 10th, Jonathan Schoop was hit by a pitch from Royals reliever Danny Duffy (1-1). David Lough then attempted to move Schoop over with a sacrifice bunt, hitting a slow tapper back to Duffy. Duffy tried to throw out Schoop at second, but instead throwing the ball into center.

Jemile Weeks then also tried a sacrifice bunt but, again, a poor Duffy throw that pulled first baseman Eric Hosmer off the bag allowed all runners to be safe.

After Nelson Cruz struck out swinging, Markakis provided the heroics with a single that was barely fair. On a day he played first base for just the fourth time in his major-league career, he was not hit with a celebratory pie in the face.

Instead, J.J. Hardy brought out a pie, allowed Markakis to eat a few bites, and then handed it off to Adam Jones, who hit the Orioles' mascot with the pie.

"That's Jonesy's decision, he was actually nice to me today," Markakis said. "It tasted good."

What may have tasted even better for Markakis was that Baltimore (12-11) came away with a win in a close, well-pitched game.

Showalter said having to manufacture runs with small ball isn't just because the lineup doesn't have Davis, but also because of the quality of pitching the Orioles were facing.

"Sometimes you don't have any choice because they're pitching so well," Showalter said. "To matchup with their bullpen, you know it's going to be tough. We got fortunate with the hit-by-pitch and a couple of good bunts, and Nicky put a good swing on a ball."

Royals starter, and former Oriole, Jeremy Guthrie, gave up just two runs on six hits over seven innings, and retired 11 in a row after allowing the first three runners of the game to reach. Both of the runs came in the first inning on an RBI single by Markakis and an RBI fielder's choice by Jones.

Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen was just as good, giving up two runs on nine hits.

"Overall, my control was pretty good tonight so I feel happy about my performance," Chen said through his interpreter. "My slider was working real well tonight and it makes a really good combination with my fastball."

Kansas City's Eric Hosmer hit an RBI double to right in the top of the third and Justin Maxwell singled in a run in the sixth to make it 2-2.

But the Baltimore bullpen held the Royals (11-12) scoreless the rest of the way. Evan Meek, Brian Matusz, Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, and Zach Britton (3-0) combined to pitch three scoreless innings, giving up just two hits.

"Bullpen was really good tonight," Showalter said. "[We] needed it."

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